Seeing other drivers look at their phones while driving is an unfortunately common sight in Alabama. In fact, one study ranked Alabama second in the nation in worst states for distracted driving.
ALDOT reported 49 roadway deaths in 2021 that were linked to distracted driving. The state has taken measures to combat distracted driving. It’s essential to understand the laws, exceptions that can apply, and how they impact liability if you’re in a crash with a distracted driver — plus how a new proposed bill could affect penalties.
Ala. Code § 32-5A-350 outlines the state’s laws prohibiting texting and driving using a wireless communication device. The law is even stricter on drivers under 18 years old, who are not permitted to use any mobile device while driving, even hands-free.
The law considers “wireless telecommunication devices” to be any of the following:
Or any other mobile communication device requiring manual input. The law does not include voice-operated texting devices.
For drivers over 18, texting and driving carries the following penalties:
You’ll also get two points added to your license for each offense. Teen drivers face harsher penalties, including fines of $150 up to $350.
Beyond fines and civil penalties, a texting or cell phone violation could also lead to criminal charges for reckless driving. And if the accident caused by texting and driving caused the death of another person, surviving loved ones could pursue a wrongful death claim.
While Alabama law is strict on drivers texting behind the wheel, there are some exceptions where doing so is allowed. For example, you can use a preprogrammed GPS app for directions. You may also use your phone to call or text emergency services such as the police or paramedics. Additionally, you’re free to use your phone if you’re legally parked or pulled over to the shoulder of a road.
Alabama follows a fault-based system for personal injury cases. If someone causes a crash because they were texting and driving or otherwise distracted, they will likely be liable for the damages anyone suffered in the collision, such as their medical bills, lost income, and vehicle damages.
You must prove the at-fault driver’s distraction if you were hurt in an accident. Your attorney may be able to access evidence, such as cell phone records proving the other driver was texting at the time of the crash or surveillance footage showing them using their phone.
Currently, holding a phone in your hand while driving is legal— only texting and driving is outlawed. However, a new bill under consideration would make it illegal to hold a phone at all behind the wheel.
AL House Bill 8, set for a hearing in March 2023, would make it illegal to hold a phone behind the wheel if passed. The bill is modeled after a similar hands-free law recently enacted in Georgia. It would also stiffen penalties, such as increasing the number of license points received for third or subsequent convictions from two to three.
The bill’s author asserts current penalties are too low and don’t do enough to punish unsafe driving. Drive Safe Alabama hopes raising penalties will deter repeat offenders and make roads safer, but whether the bill will pass remains to be seen.
With the prevalence of distracted driving on Alabama roads, hundreds of drivers are hurt or killed yearly in texting and driving accidents. If you were injured in an accident with a distracted driver, the car accident attorneys of Belt, Bruner & Barnett P.C. can help.
You shouldn’t have to pay the price of someone else’s negligence if they were texting and driving and caused a crash. Our team of attorneys will help prove the other driver’s negligence and hold them accountable for the injuries you suffered.